CMU Digest

CMU Digest 31.08.20: TikTok, Napster, Fortnite, stream manipulation, Tracy Chapman

By | Published on Monday 31 August 2020


The key stories from the last week in the music business…

TikTok’s recently appointed CEO quit in an eventful week for the video-sharing app. Lawyers for TikTok and its China-based parent company Bytedance said that Donald Trump’s executive order banning the app in the US from 15 Sep was illegal and unconstitutional. But talks continued to sell the TikTok US business to allay the concerns of Trump et al – who claim that the Chinese government has access to the app’s global audience and data. Supermarket giant Walmart joined Microsoft’s bid for the US business, with rival tech firm Oracle and a consortium involving rival app Triller also reportedly in the running. With the global TikTok business likely to be broken up, the former Disney exec who became its Global CEO in May – Kevin Mayer – said he was now departing the company. [READ MORE]

London-based live music VR platform MelodyVR bought the Napster streaming service. Although it only shares a name with the original Napster file-sharing network, the legit Napster business nevertheless launched in the early days of digital music, subsequently reinventing itself as a streaming service. But, despite merging with US music platform Rhapsody, it has never gained the momentum of the likes of Spotify. MelodyVR said that by buying the Napster business it would create “a one-of-a-kind, future platform of combined entertainment services … built on the understanding that live music and recorded music are equally as loved and important”. [READ MORE]

The sparring between Apple and Epic Games over the former’s App Store policies continued. ‘Fortnite’ maker Epic is pursuing a legal and PR battle against Apple. Like Spotify, it claims that the tech giant insisting iOS app makers use its commission-charging system for in-app payments is anti-competitive. Apple banned ‘Fortnite’ from its App Store after Epic added an alternative payment system to the game’s app. Epic wanted the US courts to force Apple to call off all sanctions while it pursues its litigation over the dispute, but Apple argued that Epic could have sued over the App Store rules without first breaking them. A judge agreed and said Apple could ban ‘Fortnite’ if if wanted to, but that any other sanctions should not affect the wider Epic business, for now at least. [READ MORE]

German record industry group BVMI secured injunctions against five more websites that enable stream manipulation. These are the companies artists and labels can pay to boost their streaming numbers. Because of the way digital royalties are shared out, such companies can also profit through such scams, as well as making it look like certain tracks are more popular than they really are. Although the streaming services and big music companies have pledged to crackdown on such manipulation, it is in Germany where this issue has become a big talking point within the music industry. [READ MORE]

Tracy Chapman’s lawyers said that Nicki Minaj had ignored the facts and the law in her response to a copyright lawsuit. Chapman has sued Minaj over an uncleared sample in a track that was never released but which did get played on the radio around the launch of her ‘Queen’ album in 2018. Minaj’s team argued that artists using uncleared samples in the studio is commonplace, that doing so is fair use under US copyright law, and suggesting otherwise would harm the creative process. The Chapman side responded by arguing that’s a misrepresentation of fair use and – anyway –  ignores the fact Minaj allegedly went out of her way to get her track with the uncleared sample played on the radio, making it public. [READ MORE]

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